Goodbye Ulysses (July 3, 2009)
Hi-res TIF image (4.6M)
Upon receipt of the last command from Earth, the transmitter on Ulysses switched off on June 30, 2009, bringing one of the most successful and longest missions in spaceflight and solar study history to an end. After 18.6 years in space and defying several earlier expectations of its demise, the joint ESA/NASA solar orbiter Ulysses achieved 'end of mission'. The craft is nearly out of hydrazine fuel for its stabilizing thrusters, and there's not enough money to continue the mission for another year. A final communication pass with a ground station enabled the final command to be issued to switch the satellite's radio communications into 'monitor only' mode. No further contact with Ulysses is planned.
Ulysses is the first spacecraft to survey the environment in space over the poles of the Sun in the four dimensions of space and time. Among many other ground-breaking results, the hugely successful mission showed that the Sun's magnetic field is carried into the solar system in a more complicated manner than previously believed. Particles expelled by the Sun from low latitudes can climb up to high latitudes and vice versa, even unexpectedly finding their way down to planets. Regions of the Sun not previously considered as possible sources of hazardous particles for astronauts and satellites must now be carefully monitored. "Ulysses has taught us far more than we ever expected about the Sun and the way it interacts with the space surrounding it," said Richard Marsden, ESA's Ulysses Project Scientist and Mission Manager.
So farewell, and congratulations on a job exceedingly well done.
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